Creepy and Kooky
The Addams Family visits the Starlight Community Theater for Halloween
By Bridgette Redman
At Starlight Community Theater, the staff gives teens what they want, especially when it comes to musicals.
This October, as Halloween decorations take over the stores and people prepare for stories of ghosts and ghouls, Starlight Community Theater will be producing “The Addams Family Musical” with a cast of teenagers ages 12 to 19.
Director Susan Gibson says teens have been requesting the musical and adults were disappointed they could not audition.
The musical comedy debuted on Broadway in 2010, based on “The Addams Family” cartoon characters. This show is the first musical based on the iconic family that is a little “creepy and kooky” and perhaps, macabre. As the Adams’ family theme song goes.
In it, daughter Wednesday brings home Lucas, a “normal” boy with whom she’s fallen in love. Their parents are going to meet over dinner at the Addams’ family mansion and both sets are in for a culture shock. Wednesday gets an assist from ghostly ancestors who watch all the action and provide a running commentary, almost a modern Greek chorus.
Gomez, meanwhile, is faced with a conundrum when his daughter asks him not to tell Morticia that she’s fallen in love with Lucas. Gomez has never kept a secret from his wife and Morticia insists he never would, insisting she could never feel the same about him if he did.
“I like that type of fun,” Gibson says. “I think it is funny and enjoyable and I like the idea of costuming the show. It’s fun to do the gray and darks for the ancestors. I have watched some YouTube to get the flavor of some of the things, but I like that I haven’t seen it. I like to put a different spin on things.”
She explained to some of the younger actors what an “ancestor” is and what it means in the show’s context. Each of the ancestors is from a different time period. One is a saloon girl, another a flapper and another a soldier.
Gibson and her co-director have worked with the actors on developing the characters, flushing out background stories.
“We really worked with them on what is their motivation to help the Addams family, what is their back story, what is their goal for the role?
“Most of the main characters knew their role, but they’ve done research on how to portray it.”
For example, she says, the actress playing Morticia has been perfecting her walk, stance and facial gestures.
The actors in the ensemble get a lot of stage time in this show as Gibson says they are often part of the scenery. It makes the musical into a real ensemble piece in which, she says, the actors are really bonding with each other. There are 10 ancestors in the Starlight production.
“Each one of them is going to be in grays and whites, but each will have a specific color that makes them more real,” Gibson says.
“It might be just a bow in their hair that is purple that would fit royalty. We have it mapped out—their makeup will always blend. If purple is their color, you might see purple in their makeup to make them stand out and each have their own unique quality.”
Teens can relate to the show in a lot of ways. They know what it is like to have someone different come into their family who upsets their interaction, Gibson says. It lets them explore relationships from the young love between Wednesday and Lucas, the hot, passionate love between Morticia and Gomez, and the somewhat faded love between Lucas’ parents.
“Each one kind of has its own type of love,” Gibson says. “The kids have to create those relationships that even as teens, they have to be believable on stage.”
While it can be challenging for teens to portray love stories and be intimate, Gibson says they are able to help them get through the discomfort. One thing that helped was Gibson and the other director were a part of this summer’s “Mamma Mia” love story. Both are married to other people and have been friends for years.
“Most of the kids saw that show,” Gibson says. “We feel like we’re giving them advice about you have to go for it. We’re kind of using that personal experience of being on stage to help them if they feel uncomfortable. It makes it really easy to have that conversation and help them to know what you need to do to have more or less in the relationships.”
Rehearsals have reinforced for Gibson how perfectly each teen is for their roles. She says she is impressed with the character development. She speaks highly of everyone.
“The grandma is hilarious—she is big and has a lot of fun. The Pugsley is perfect—he knows when to put the zingers in,” Gibson says.
“We couldn’t have chosen better kids for these roles. We actually have twins. One is Fester and the other is the dad from the other family. I was worried how it would look, but they play them so differently, you forget they are twins.”
Gibson says it’s been fun finding props for the show and the décor throughout the theater. “The Addams Family Musical” fits in with the Halloween time of year, but it’s not scary or horrific.
“It’s not a scary show,” Gibson says. “It is a really funny show. There are moments of caring and loving and friendship throughout the whole thing. We want it Halloweenish and ghoulish, but it is definitely more of a comedy than a thriller.”